Kerala Elections: An Intense Three-Way Contest in Thrissur
NDA’s Suresh Gopi, UDF’s Padmaja Venugopal and CPI’s P Balachandran – have all stood and lost from Thrissur earlier.
When Suresh Gopi uttered the words “I’m taking Thrissur” ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, he had probably not expected to inspire hundreds of memes overnight.
The constituency dealt him a blow by electing UDF candidate TN Prathapan. Gopi settled for third position, with 2,93,822 votes. But a closer look at the parliamentary election results shows that in the Thrissur Assembly segment alone, the actor polled second after racing ahead of LDF’s Rajaji Mathew Thomas.
Two years later, Suresh Gopi is back to contest elections, this time for an MLA seat from Thrissur. But in 2021, there is no dismissing him.
The actor-cum-politician is pitted against UDF’s Padmaja Venugopal and CPI’s P Balachandran – heralding a neck-and-neck fight in the high-profile constituency. In fact, a victory in Thrissur could be anybody’s, say voters and political analysts.
For the 60-year-old actor, an electoral loss is not new. But this time around, Gopi is more reserved with his comments on the fight for Thrissur. Speaking to the media, he said that “he was contesting as his party leaders wanted him to”. He also stressed that “more than winning, he was just here to compete”, possibly revealing a lack of confidence.
However, in Thrissur, voters believe that Suresh Gopi has good chances of securing votes. “He is supposed to be very helpful and he has done a lot of work for people here in this constituency. Which makes me feel that he might have a chance,” Biju, a resident of East Fort told TNM.
On 28 March, Palm Sunday, the actor also visited several churches in the town as part of his campaign, in order to appeal to the minority Christian population as well.
Meanwhile, the Congress-led UDF has fielded a familiar face from the seat. Their candidate Padmaja Venugopal, daughter of former CM K Karunakaran, has, like her rival from the NDA, contested from Thrissur and lost.
In the 2016 Assembly polls, Padmaja came second after she lost to current Agriculture Minister and CPI MLA VS Sunil Kumar by 6,987 votes.
Thrissur has traditionally been a Congress bastion, after INC’s Therambil Ramakrishnan won five consecutive terms as MLA from the Assembly constituency.
Therambil enjoyed thumping victories from 1991 until 2011. This trend was disrupted only after CPI’s Sunil Kumar won in 2016.
But this time around, Sunil Kumar is not contesting the elections. His place has been taken by P Balachandran in Thrissur. Balachandran is a CPI leader from the district who is well-known within the party unit. In the 2011 Assembly election, Balachandran stood and lost against Congress’ Therambil, after polling 43,822 votes.
This time, to Balachandran’s advantage, pre-poll surveys predict that the LDF will win, despite facing a setback in Thrissur district and its 13 constituencies.
The Manorama-VMR survey shows that the Thrissur and Manalur Assembly constituencies will be retained by the LDF, which won 12 out 13 seats in the district in 2016. However, the UDF is likely to win in five constituencies.
But political analyst Pramod Kumar believes that the UDF has a good chance of reclaiming the Thrissur seat this time, and that it is going to be an uphill task for the BJP to win in the constituency.
“Thrissur is a Congress stronghold except for a few blips. But in 2016, the LDF wrested it back through Sunil Kumar of the CPI. Reports say that the LDF still has an upper hand, but the same UDF candidate Padmaja Venugopal, who contested in 2016, lost only by a margin of 6,000 votes. This means that if Padmaja can swing a little over 3,000 votes, she can win.
The BJP came third last time and it remains to be seen if it can improve its position. That being said, there was a major jump from 2016, when it got less than 20 percent vote share to about 28 percent in 2019. However, that looks like the upper limit of the BJP in Thrissur as crossing 30 percent is not easy for the party except in a few constituencies,” he said.
While Balachandran says he wants to focus on three sectors in the constituency – drinking water, health and traffic woes, Padmaja says that she wants to give the town a makeover, start a women’s only marketplace, bring an IT park to the city and address drinking water issues. Suresh Gopi said that sanitation and conserving water bodies was something that had to be addressed in the state.
Road Shows, Catchy Taglines
All the candidates have been doing road shows for the past few days. While Balachandran’s campaign has the tagline ‘It’s the continuation of spring season’, Padmaja Venugopal has opted for ‘Along with Thrissur’ as her campaign slogan.
(This story was first published in The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)
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